“Tram tracks will now be completed at a later date”

Changing the scope of the work on Douglas promenade will have cost implications. That's according to political member with responsibility for highways, Tim Baker MHK.

The Department of Infrastructure is aiming to complete the ongoing work by April next year without the horse tram tracks in place between the War Memorial and the Sea Terminal.

Mr Baker admits adding the tracks in at a later date, along with delays caused by the coronavirus lockdown, will impact the budget. Here Mr Baker’s comments HERE.

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'History Repeats Itself Over Horse Tram Saga'

Isle of Man Newspapers – Sun, May 17, 2020

“The arguments over the future of the Douglas Bay railway have trotted back and forth over the years with the plodding regularity of a trammer horse.

But it was a last-minute backbench amendment that was to finally tie the hands of the government to retaining the full length of the horse tramway.

Following a debate in December 2016, Infrastructure Minister Ray Harmer had requested a combined vote after the two branches of Tynwald failed to agree with his plan to renew the twin tracks between Broadway and Summerhill.

Under his then proposals, a tram corridor would be set aside for the southern section of the line to the Sea Terminal to be relaid at some point in the future.

Douglas North MHK David Ashford, not then appointed Health Minister, said it would be ’absolutely ludicrous’ to terminate the tram tracks at the Villa.

But when it came to the combined vote the following month, Douglas East MHK Chris Robertshaw tabled an amendment that required the DoI to lay a single track from the Villa Marina through to the Sea Terminal.

’Do not let us limit our ambitions,’ he urged.

His amendment was carried overwhelmingly - committing the DoI to a costly and time-consuming element of the Promenade scheme.

But this was just the latest in a series of proposals.

Under the previous DoI Minister, Phil Gawne, there were plans for a single tram track running along the Loch Promenade walkway to the War Memorial and then continuing just off the highway before crossing the road at Strathallan.

The DoI submitted a planning application but this was rejected by the Council of Ministers following a planning inquiry. During the inquiry, Douglas Council decided to stop running the horse trams and they were taken over by government.

A further planning bid was made by the DoI for the southern end of the Promenade to be built without a tram corridor, which minimised the impact on pedestrians and parking.

Campaigners had vigorously opposed the idea of pedestrians and cyclists having to share the walkway with the horse trams. Hoteliers had also criticised the loss of parking spaces that would result from running the line by the side of the road. In July 2016, Tynwald voted to continue the loss-making horse tram service for at least two years.

They also voted to approve the principle that any future Promenade designs should include a single track running the whole length of the Promenade. But following the debate, amid more concerns over the loss of parking spaces on Loch Promenade, the DoI withdrew its new planning application.

In July 2017, Tynwald approved funding for the Promenade reconstruction scheme which included a twin-track horse tram line in the centre of the road between Strathallan and Castle Mona Avenue - and a single track on the seaward side of the highway as far as Peveril Square.

Outlining the design principles for the Prom which led to the current £25m scheme, Mr Harmer noted in December 2016: ’The last eight years have brought into focus the many competing aspirations for the Promenade.

’It has become clear that there is no design solution capable of satisfying everybody’s ambitions for the space.’

How right he was.”

Isle of Man Newspapers


Isle of Man Newspapers - Sunday, 17 May 2020

“The Douglas Bay Horse Tramway may reach the Sea Terminal end of the promenade - but it might not be until 2023.

Infrastructure Minister Ray Harmer confirmed in Tynwald the trams will reach the bottom of Broadway by the new completion date of Easter 2021, but that the rest of the line will likely have to wait.

Mr Harmer (pictured right) said the prom works can be ’finished’ by Easter 2021, however doing this will require government and its main contractor Auldyn to ’reduce the scope of the works’.

No major update has yet been provided on what reducing the scope means or which changes have been made to the scheme that was backed by Tynwald and planners before the much-delayed project began in September 2018.

It was originally due to be finished by October but the date had been put back to August 2021.

In Tynwald Mr Harmer noted that the roundabouts on the promenade will be constructed using ’more conventional’ road surfaces and that they will either be left in place or replaced with the intended blocks outside of the summer season.

The most stinging criticism for Mr Harmer and the scheme came from Daphne Caine (Garff) who said she would question: ’Is the minister and his department actually using the health emergency to cover up the complete failure of theirs to complete and progress the promenade in a timely manner?’

She added: ’Instead of getting the promenade completely done as the minister said, it would in fact not be completely done, if indeed there are no other motions or debates on the matter, until 2023.’

In response, Mr Harmer said: ’The due date for completing the prom was August 2021.

’As I said before, with the loss of at least two months, but in many respects, a lot more of that mobilisation time, we’ll be looking at a much extended programme.

’But worse than that, and I think this is what I would like to remind the honourable members, we will be working through the tourist season next year.

’What we are doing here, is saying "what bits can we complete now?" to get a really good finish so that the prom is in its best possible place in March 2021 and from them on look to complete those sections, with consultation with businesses and so forth, at the appropriate time.’

He said this is the correct approach and the alternative was to ’plough on’ and disrupt the 2021 tourist season.

Mr Harmer, in response to an emergency question from Kate Costain (Lib Vannin, Douglas South), said that he wanted to ’make sure there were no works on the prom that could hinder the opportunity for businesses in 2021’.

He added: ’In respect of the prom, I do not want to be putting cones outside a hotel from next Easter which will be a potential reboot of the tourist season. How could we do that to businesses that have struggled through a year of coronavirus related problems?’

Even before Covid-19 hit the island, prom businesses had shut down and others have been critical of the regeneration works, which were due to be completed by October 2020.

Mr Harmer said Tynwald members ’seemed’ to be in agreement with the changes after he briefed them during a private meetings for members.

However, Miss Costain said she was ’surprised’ he would think a private briefing constituted Tynwald agreement, adding: ’This is about more than just the promenade, this is about democracy and Tynwald having supremacy.

’Ministers cannot just do what they feel they want to do based on a private briefing that was giving members an indication of a possibility.’

In response, Mr Harmer said there was a ’major need to get the prom done’ and the changes were about ’scheduling’.

Lawrie Hooper (Lib Vannin, Ramsey), asked Mr Harmer if he thought the scheme should be reviewed to determine if it was still fit for purpose.

Mr Harmer said: ’There has been so much debate and that’s why I don’t think it’s right to open another debate that could cause more delay and confusion. At this point, everybody just wants to get the prom done.’

In an update on the My Prom website it warns: ’To avoid a £60 fixed penalty notice, please ensure that your vehicle road tax is valid, do not park in restricted areas such as loading bays, bus stops, pedestrian zones and cycle ways. Do not park in service lanes or on pavements - remember to purchase a valid parking ticket when using pay and display car parks such as the Tongue and Parade Street East”

Isle of Man Newspapers


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